An authentic foundation will yield fruit that is healthy and prosperous. Last month I introduced you to ZHA Inc., a company that provides a great example of the kind of leadership I have been describing throughout these articles. Thirty-five years of speaking and consulting have provided me with hundreds of contrasts to the exemplary form and freedom that flourishes at ZHA. I witnessed the virtual antithesis to their environment a few years ago at an organization that made a conscious, determined effort to keep its employees in great bondage. The foundation-if it can be called that-that this company operated from was one of fear and intimidation. Doors with combination locks separated all departments, and the phone system was set up so that staffers wanting to telephone a purpose partner who worked in an office just a few steps away had to call in through the main switchboard. NULL The CEO of the organization also worked behind a locked door, and only a select few individuals possessed the combination. Staffers who wished to speak to this individual were instructed to schedule an appointment with the front desk-and the CEO frequently broke those appointments. The company believed that the best way to maintain productivity was to “keep people on their toes,” so twice a year approximately one-third of the staff would be terminated. The bloodletting would generally occur within a four-to-six hour period, and the unfortunates would be escorted out the door by the company’s grim-faced senior vice president. (One young woman explained that she had no way to go home because her husband had dropped her at work that morning; she was instructed to walk to the restaurant across the street and phone home for a ride.) The anxious staffers who remained were given no explanation for the sudden wave of departures. The only answers were found in the speculations of the rumor mill. Staffers huddled in small groups like sheep, literally whispering to one another, only to abruptly cease all conversation if a senior manager approached. I witnessed this scandalous situation with my own eyes; needless to say, my association with this firm was short-lived! It came as no surprise to learn that this company has closed its doors. Its “leaders” reaped the disastrous fruit of the bondage they sought to create.
An authentic foundation-one that is built on truth, wisdom, and excellence-will yield fruit that is infinitely more healthy and prosperous than that yielded under the bizarre conditions I have just described.
But the philosophy is only the foundation; the sub-structure that gives an organization stability and health is a core group of Leader’s Leaders who live out that philosophy with confidence, consistency, and courage.